by Jasmine Law, CFICE Vounteer
Food connects us all. Believe it or not, food is tied to the economy, environment, and to social justice and democracy. It’s so central to our lives that one in eight jobs in Canada are related to food systems, not to mention that it has a daily connection with each and every individual.
Food is the end result of a complicated system of actors and relationships, and within this system lays a set of values and principles that illustrate how we see the world. This is why it’s so important that this system operates on the right foundations. Currently, it doesn’t. However, despite the inequality that exists within the food system today, many are working hard to push for a more sustainable and equitable future.
In fact, after years of lobbying by Food Secure Canada and others, the Trudeau government has charged the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food with developing a National Food Policy (NFP). So far the process has begun, but what is a National Food Policy? What will it do?
To create a successful policy, it’s important to first understand the issue. Canada is a leading agricultural exporter, but four million Canadians struggle to put food on the table. This struggle is even worse in Northern Canada, especially in Indigenous communities, where food costs significantly more than in communities like Toronto. Processed foods are also increasingly becoming a large part of our diets and are contributing to the rise of chronic diseases, which places a burden on our healthcare system. These are only the beginning of the problems we face in regards to food.
Food Secure Canada outlines its goals for a national food policy to have a focus on processes and outcomes. When asked about a National Food Policy, Amanda Wilson, the academic co-lead for CFICE’s Community Academic Collaborative for Food Sovereignty table of the Community-Campus Engagement Brokering Working Group, said that it would “provide a degree of continuity and coherence to the key values that underpin our food system and food government – a just, healthy and sustainable food system – the National Food Policy needs to address food security, health, the environment and economic viability.”
According to Wilson, developing the NFP requires taking a systems perspective. This means linking up and joining together individual departments and programs so the NFP harnesses the points of leverage and connection between all related areas of food production, distribution, and consumption in Canada.
“We think it’s really important to have a multi-stakeholder governance process that includes civil society at the table,” Wilson described. “We think a National Food Policy Council is a great way to achieve that; and we’d also like to see strong civil society involvement in the policy building process.”
As important and complex a policy as the NFP would be, it’s no wonder that the process needs to be collaborative, adaptive, and able to look at the root causes of the challenges our food system faces. That’s why, for the next year, Food Secure Canada will work on engaging and working with members, allies, key stakeholders, and the general public to establish priorities and develop proposals for a comprehensive NFP. To do this, they will work in partnership with CFICE through their Community-Campus Engagement Brokering working group.
“CFICE has been a key partner in building our capacity to engage in national food policy work and particularly in strengthening our collaborations and relationships with academics,” said Wilson. “This is crucial because as a small organization with limited resources, we really benefit from relationships with academics to extend and deepen our capacity in research and analysis. The partnership with CFICE has been about building that institutional capacity to better leverage and manage those relationships.”
A sustainable future is something that is achievable and necessary for future generations that will inhabit this earth. By building a NFP and increasing our ability to shape our food system, we can have a tremendous impact on the quality of life for all citizens and communities.